The single squadron of Mi-35 attack helicopters in the Indian Air Force (IAF) are undergoing a complete overhaul in Russia which will extend these helicopter lifespan by six years keeping them in service beyond this decade, according to defence sources.
“The overhaul is being done in two batches. The first batch is currently in Russia and once they are done, the second batch would be sent. The entire overhaul should be completed by mid-2023,” a defence source said. The overhaul of each batch takes around six to eight months, the source stated.
The IAF earlier operated two squadrons of the older Russian Mi-25/35 attack helicopters, of which one squadron has been phased out following the induction of 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in 2019-20. The 125 Helicopter Unit operating Apaches is based at Pathankot.
The overhaul will add another six years of life to the Mi-35s keeping them in service beyond this decade, sources said.
In 2015-16, India had handed over four Mi-25/35 attack helicopters to Afghanistan National Army taken from the IAF’s inventory.
Expanding its fleet of attack helicopters, IAF had inducted the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCH) Prachand in October with the first squadron, 143 Helicopter Unit ‘Dhanush’, based at Jodhpur. Eventually, the Army is looking for another 95 LCH and the IAF another 65 of them and the induction is likely spread over the next 10-15 years.
India has contracted six additional Apache attack helicopters in an estimated $800 million deal signed in February 2020, but they will be operated by the Army Aviation. Deliveries are expected by early 2024.
In all, the IAF operates a wide mix of around 500 rotary platforms which includes around 90 Mi-17s, over 130 Mi-17V5s, over 70 indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) including the weaponised Rudra variant, 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, one squadron of Mi-35 attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters. The IAF is in talks with Boeing to procure 11 additional Chinooks.